The fruit are berries, which are harvested in the fall after they mature. These berries are then ground into a powder, then a lipophilic extract is taken from the powder. This extract is what is actually used for medicine. The plant can be found from South Carolina all the way to Texas, but is most common the farther southeast you go. Central Florida is the largest producer of Saw Palmetto in the country.
Native Americans were the first to utilize the Saw Palmetto and ate the berries for food before discovering the medicinal properties of them, but this Saw Palmetto made up a large chunk of their diet. Later, Native American medicine men used the berries to treat impotence, inflammation and infertility, as well as some other conditions, such as for the prostate.
Interest in this plant had peaked in the U.S. and in the late 19th century, where it was observed that the plant seemed to help livestock. The extract that was taken from these berries was used to treat things like an enlarged prostate and gonorrhea. After WWII, however, interest in the plant died out in the United States.
In Europe, however, the extract was popular for treating BPH. Now, however, there is a renewed interest in the extract in the U.S. and it's currently being used to treat many things like hair loss, prostate enlargement, and poor libido.
One of the major benefits of using Saw Palmetto extract is that there are very few hazardous allergic reactions or side effects. Like many supplements, there is a slight risk of gastro-intestinal problems, however taking the extract with food can help to keep intestinal problems to a minimum. The extract does carry a chemical, which is called beta-sitosterol, which is very similar to cholesterol.
Much like cholesterol, high levels of this chemical have been known to increase the risk of heart attacks and other heart problems. Also, it's important to note that all of this has to do with the amount you take and the batch or manufacturer. Currently, PSE is used only as a natural supplement, so it's not regulated in the United States.
To successfully extract the lipophilic substance from the plant, a solvent must be used. The solvent used in permixon, the most common Saw Palmetto product in the UK, is extracted using Hexane. Other solvents used include methanol, ethanol and liquid carbon dioxide.
The solvent used is very important, as it can affect the chemistry of the product, and you want to make sure you are getting the highest quality product, so it's always a good idea to keep an eye out for products where Hexane is used as the solvent.
Saw Palmetto can be a great way to improve prostate health with little to no danger of side effects.
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